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Swinney challenged over elderly patients ‘waiting far too long’ for NHS care

John Swinney was challenged on long waits faced by the elderly in A&E (PA)
John Swinney was challenged on long waits faced by the elderly in A&E (PA)

Elderly Scots are “waiting far too long” for care in the NHS, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said as he claimed there have been more than 100 cases of centenarians spending 12 hours or more in A&E in just over a year.

He said figures obtained under freedom of information laws show “in over 100 cases, people aged over 100 waited over 12 hours for emergency treatments”.

He branded this “appalling and unacceptable” as he challenged John Swinney on NHS performance during First Minister’s Questions.

It came after an audience member in a General Election debate earlier this week pressed the First Minister on the care her 93-year-old mother had received.

Mr Swinney apologised to Anna McClintock during the TV leaders’ debate after hearing her mother had waited six hours for an ambulance, and then another two hours to be admitted to hospital.

In Holyrood on Thursday, Mr Ross challenged the First Minister on the care elderly Scots receive from the NHS.

He said: “Elderly patients are waiting far too long to get the treatment they deserve.

“People waiting too long for ambulances or to get in to A&E departments. People who need urgent care but they can’t get it when they need it. All we seem to get from John Swinney and the SNP are excuses.”

Mr Swinney accepted “not everybody is getting the treatment they require as quickly as they require it”.

But he told MSPs the “NHS is at the top of my list of priorities” as he blamed “congestion” in hospitals for the long waits.

Douglas Ross standing as he speaks in the Holyrood debating chamber, with Tory MSPs looking on
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross raised NHS performance with John Swinney during First Minister’s Questions (Jane Barlow/PA)

The First Minister said: “Our hospitals are operating at such a level of congestion that individuals are not able to be transferred from accident and emergency into wider hospital care for the simple reason that the hospitals are congested because of delayed discharge.”

He said the Scottish Government is working with councils to tackle the problem, which occurs when people are medically well enough to leave hospital but have to wait for care arrangements to be put in place.

He added that “ultimately this comes back to the resources that are available to the National Health Service”, and he said his Government had taken the “hard decision” to increase tax for higher earners to help provide more funding for health service.

The First Minister said: “We are obviously investing in our health service to the extent where we now have record levels of staffing to ensure we can meet the needs and the demands of the population in Scotland.

“I acknowledge not everybody is getting the treatment they require as quickly as they require it.

“But there is a very focused effort being undertaken within the Government, within our health boards, to make sure that can be delivered in all localities in Scotland.”